Metal Roofing Pros and Cons in 2020 – The Ultimate Guide for Homeowners

Metal aka the “forever roof” can be an excellent choice for residential re-roofing applications, particularly in comparison to the less-durable, temporary roof types such as asphalt shingles.

Standing Seam Metal Roof on a custom-designed house
via Anthony Wilder

Pros of Metal

Extremely Durable and Long-Lasting

Steel shingles in Red color – metal shingle roof with snow guards

Compared to the more traditional asphalt shingle, metal is a far more durable and longer-lasting option for residential roofs.

In fact, most homeowners who choose to install a metal roof on their home will never have to think about re-roofing again. Why not? Well, metal roofs are proven to last two to three times longer than asphalt, with 50 to 60 years lifespan for higher-end Kynar 500 coated metal roofs such as field-locked standing seam and aluminum shingles. A roof made of zinc or copper can last well over 100 years.

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$14,500
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$8,225
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A metal roof can withstand the elements for far longer than an asphalt roof. Sun or rain, snow or ice, a metal roof will remain attractive and weatherproof for a very long time.

Moss- and Fungus-Proof

Unlike asphalt, metal roofing is 100% unaffected by the growth of moss, mold and mildew, fungus and moss — all the common afflictions known to plaque impermanent roofs made of asphalt or wood such as cedar shingles and shakes.

Did you know? Moss and fungus growth not only look extremely undesirable, but they can also dramatically shorten the lifespan of an asphalt roof. — In fact, without ongoing maintenance and sealing and/or regular roof cleaning, significant moss outgrowth can cut the “already short lifespan” of wood and asphalt by almost half! πŸ˜‰ This is exactly the kind of contrast that makes metal the perfect choice for areas that are particularly prone to moss growth, such as heavily wooded environments.

Raccoons, Rodents, Pests, and Wild Animals Proof

If you live in heavily-wooded area, where raccoons and rodents can get onto your roof from the tree branch, you can rest assured that they won’t be able to damage a metal roof to break into your attic.

Did you know? There are many reported cases of pests and wild animals breaking away the asphalt shingles, destroying plywood, and getting inside the homes to cause further damage.

Fire Retardant Material

Another benefit of high-end metal roofs is that many systems carry Class A fire retardant ratings. This can be particularly important in areas that are prone to wildfires.

Metal roofs can also be useful in locations that experience other types of extreme weather, such Kansas, Oklahoma, and other areas where hailstorms are common.

Did you know? A metal roof can withstand even some of the largest hailstones with minimal damage, and most properly-installed high-end metal roofs can normally withstand wind speeds of up to 110 to 120 miles per hour, with many systems actually rated for an even stronger wind uplift.

What this means, is that many high-end metal roofs can meet or exceed the requirements of some of the strictest building codes in the US, such as the hurricane prone county of Miami Dade in Florida. In fact, metal roofs are rated for winds of up to 160 MPH, which is a category 5 hurricane.

In contrast, 3-tab asphalt shingles can be damaged by winds with speeds of 70+ miles per hour. Shingles can be damaged, or even blown off the roof, particularly if they have been poorly fitted.

High-end residential metals roofs are rated to withstand wind, hail and fire, and some home insurers will offer discounts of up to 30 percent to homeowners whose properties have metal roofs.

Sustainability of Metal

Metal is a sustainable and durable alternative to asphalt or cedar. Metal roofs can last at least three times as long as asphalt shingles, without requiring as much maintenance.

At least 30 percent of the material that is used to create a metal roof has been previously recycled. Some metal roofs are made of 100 percent recycled content. — This, coupled with the superior durability and long lifespan, makes metal an environmentally friendly roofing option.

All metal roofs can be fully recycled at the end of their service life.

Metal offers yet another important advantage over other materials; Metal roofs can stay much cooler than their asphalt counterparts on a hot sunny day, helping to regulate the temperature inside the building, while also reducing the demand for electricity and AC load.

How can a metal roof help keep my home cool in summer?

Metal coated with a Kynar 500 based resin can achieve solar reflectance index ratings of over 70%. Reflecting away most of solar radiant heat can help keep the roof surface significantly cooler, thus limiting the amount of heat that can be absorbed and transferred inside the house.

via CoolRoofs

Metal also has good thermal emissivity, which means that whatever solar radiant heat was observed during the day, will be quickly released back into the atmosphere with the sunset.

Did you know? Even the most energy-efficient metal roofs will absorb some of the heat from the sun during the day, but unlike asphalt, they will also quickly release it during the unset of the night.

Metal cools much faster than asphalt. In a hot environment, a metal roof can help keep the house significantly cooler by reflecting solar radiation and any accumulated excess heat back into the atmosphere.

Thus, metal reflects a significant amount of solar radiant heat during the day, without transferring much of it into the house, while any heat absorbed is quickly released during the night.

Note that a properly insulated and ventilated attic space is the key to a well-functioning and energy-efficient roof and a more durable, healthier, and comfortable home.

Good for All Seasons and Climates

Metal roofs can help to keep your home cool during the hot weather, but they can also provide important benefits in a cold environment. Ice dams are a significant problem for many homeowners in the United States and in Canada.

Did you know? An ice dam can create a leak in a roof, but it can do so surreptitiously, so that a homeowner is not aware of the problem for many months! πŸ˜‰

Ice dams occur when there is a combination of insufficient insulation under the roof, in the attic space, and poor ventilation in the roof.

The lack of adequate attic insulation means that hot air can rise up through the house, into the attic, where, due to the lack of ventilation, it will become trapped under the roof. — This trapped heat gradually warms the roof deck and melts the snow that is lying on top of it.

The resulting melted water begins to run down the roof slope, refreezing along the cooler eaves, where the ice forms an ice dam.

An ice dam is a wall of ice which builds up along the eaves of a roof. As more snow is melted, it runs down towards the eaves and adds to the wall of ice.

Once there is enough ice along the eaves, the water will begin to be trapped. It will be unable to run off the roof, and it will instead be pushed back under the roof shingles, where it may leak into the house. — All of this can be avoided by installing a metal roof. πŸ˜‰

Metal roofs can help prevent snow and ice from accumulating on the roof, which means that ice dams are unable to form.

A metal roof is one of the ways in which ice dams can be effectively mitigated and prevented from forming in the first place, so they are an ideal choice for cold climates.

Disadvantages

Despite all of their benefits, there is one important disadvantage to choosing a metal roof, and that is the higher initial upfront cost of investment.

Many homeowners may be cautious about buying a metal roof because the initial upfront cost will be higher than choosing a more conventional option such as asphalt shingles. — This makes sense, if you are buying a roof for a house or building in which you only have short-term (5 years or less) plans of staying in.

If you will not be there to take on the cost of replacing the asphalt roof in ten or fifteen years, then asphalt will be the cheaper option.

Total life-cycle cost caveat: However, if you have long plans of living at your house, then it is worth comparing the cost of a metal shingle roof to the cumulative total cost of all the asphalt roof replacements you will likely need to pay for during your residence at the property.

In addition to the above, there are other important benefits of having a metal roof including its unique attractive appearance that can help enhance the curb appeal of a house, coupled with metal’s ability to keep your home cooler in the summer, while helping minimize and prevent heavy snow build-up and ice dams issues during winter, especially if you live in the snow country.

A metal roof can also help reduce the cost of your homeowner’s insurance premiums thanks to its superior durability, longevity, and fire-retardant properties and ratings.

Some homeowner’s insurance companies can provide 30% to 35% discount on homeowner’s homeowner’s insurance policies for homes protected by a qualified metal roofing system.

Did you know? many metal roofing systems are class-4 hail impact-rated to withstand hail-stones of up to two inches in diameter. Not only that, but some of these class-4 hail ratings may actually be backed by the manufacturers’ warranties.

For instance, DECRA, a stone-coated metal roof manufacturer, provides full replacement warranty coverage for hail damage regardless of the size of the hail stones that may have caused the roof damage. Boral Steel (formerly Gerard USA), another manufacturer of stone coated metal roofs also provides an actual hail damage warranty (PDF) for hail stones that measure up to 2.5 inches in diameter.

While there are also some hail impact resistant asphalt shingle products available from most asphalt shingle roofing manufacturers, you will be hard pressed to find a single asphalt shingle manufacturer that backs their product with an actual warranty coverage.

Last but not least, your peace of mind with respect to the roof protecting your home and your family is hard to put a price tag on. Knowing that your roofing system is designed to provide a durable, long-lasting, and weatherproof protection for your home and your family is an important intangible, especially if you happen to live in a storm-prone and/or fire-prone area.

Verdict: a metal roof may actually prove to be the most cost-effective roofing choice when viewed over a long-enough time-frame and through a lens of a long-term investment in the roof’s durability and longevity, improving the home’s overall curb appeal, and benefiting financially from the greatly improved energy efficiency of a metal roof.

Dealing with the higher cost of upfront investment

If the initial cost of investment is a serious obstacle, for example financing amount issues and/or because you are buying a roof for a business or an outbuilding of some kind, then it may be worthwhile considering lower-cost metal roofing option such as corrugated or ribbed metal

Did you know? Higher-end corrugated and ribbed metal roofs are often priced similarly to asphalt shingles, but they can be expected to last about twice as long with proper maintenance.

Corrugated and ribbed metal roofs can offer excellent value in terms of longevity, durability, and energy efficiency for the money. These systems are available as either a low-end 29 gauge steel with polyester paint finishes and as a high-end 26 or 24 gauge steel panels that are coated with CoolRoof rated Kynar 500 paint finishes.

Pro Tip: For residential re-roofing applications, always, look for 24 or 26 gauge steel with Kynar 500 paint finish for improved durability and longevity of the system.

When the initial upfront cost of a high-end metal roof is a serious financial obstacle, consider going with a high-end corrugated or ribbed metal panels system, which can be a sound and less-costly roofing choice compared to standing seam and metal shingles.

Keep in mind that metal roofs with exposed fasteners such as corrugated and ribbed systems, will likely require occasional maintenance in the form of re-tightening the screws and inspecting the rubber washers in between the screws and metal panels every 10 to 15 years or so. The frequency of any required inspections and maintenance will depend on the roof’s slope and your home’s location.

Residential Metal Roofing Profiles

The usual choice for houses is an architectural / residential standing seam, which is typically made out of Galvalume (zinc & aluminum coated steel) or G-90 galvanized steel, although other metals such as painted aluminum, weathered zinc, and copper are also used, albeit at a higher cost.

Another common, often less expensive choice is a residential metal shingles roof, which is a fully interlocking (metal shingles are locked-in with each other on all four sides, making for a strong and durable design) and a very versatile roofing system.

Standing Seam Metal Panels for Homes and Commercial Roofing Applications

Commercial standing seam roofs also known as structural standing seam, are built from structural / rigid steel panels that are installed over steel beams. The beams are usually set four feet apart from each other. — Installing these can be easy on large-spanning roofs, but only for well-equipped professional installers.

Standing Seam Metal Roof on a beach house with cedar shake siding

Standing seam is generally considered a far more complex system to install compared corrugated metal, because standing seam panels require very precise measuring and cutting to achieve the proper placement if the panels and secure locking of the seams.

That said, once a standing seam roof is properly fitted and installed, it will require almost zero maintenance. Standing seam roofs are fairly expensive, however, and some homeowners may get an understandable “sticker shock” when getting quotes for standing seam.

Many architects and design-inspired remodeling consumers view standing seam roofs as unique and attractive roofing option. Coupled with its superior durability and longevity, standing seam is often sought after for residential properties in-spite of its modern look.

Standing seam roofs are very popular for homes, particularly in the North Eastern states that get heavy snow and in parts of the Pacific North West as well as fire-prone areas in California.

Did you know? Standing seam roofs can also be easily integrated with PV solar panels for the generation of electricity from the solar energy, without having to drill any holes in the roof.

A standing seam roof integrated with PV solar panels coupled with an inverter and tied to the electric greed is a powerful combination for the roof’s durability, longevity, energy efficiency, and most-importantly great value for the money. The best part about standing seam is that it’s proven to perform and last in pretty much any climate, while providing superior durability, longevity, and energy savings.


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